Almaty, Kazakhstan - On Wednesday, June sixth we caught a flight from the aimag capital of Olgii, in western Mongolia and flew through one of Kazakstan's lesser known backdoors to the economic captial, Almaty.
The International Airport in Olgii was the first I've been to that had pit toilets out front and no paved roads leading to it. When we arrived, the airport officials were playing ping pong in the center of the terminal. We grabbed a couple mutton dumplings and a packet of biscuits with the last of our Togrog and worked our way through 2 1/2 hours of customs & border control with 40 other people and about 80 elbows. The runway too was not paved and sent our little two prop plane bouncing on take off.
Landing in Almaty was quite a shock. We went from the dusty desert wind of Olgii to the lush green tree lined streets and snow capped mountain backdrop of Almaty in a few hours and were stunned by the difference. Paranoid of what diaster was due to befall us on this border crossing, Suwei kept a tight grip on her passport, my backpack with camera never left my hand, we made our way through the gauntlet of taxi drivers to the information desk... where we found every hotel in town completely booked. We made an attempt to find a room at the airport hotel and also found it full. We ended up returning to the information desk and pleading with the nice English speaking lady on the phone to dig deeper. After about an hour of searching she finally found a place for 22,000 Tenge or about $180 dollars. That was at about 9:30 pm... so we took it.
Yesterday (the 7th) we spent searching for a cheaper option for lodging. It took almost six hours but in the end we ended up at this nice Russian owned hotel up the hill toward the incredibly beautiful mountains. We are still paying 9450T or about $80 and have since learned that unless we want to sleep in someone's dorm bed, that is about as cheap as rooms come here. The long and short of this tale is that we are moving quickly to learn how to bring down our Kazakhstan expenses and learn a bit about what we can do here and how the heck we are going to get out of here...before we go broke.
So... please stand by. We had one of the most incredible journeys across Mongolia and are dying to share it with you all, but first we must get to a place where we can aford to spend the time telling the tale. We will keep you posted.